Editor’s note: This is part of VentureBeat’s series “Startup Spotlight.” Every week, we’ll sift through the scores of companies applying to be promoted and profile the best one. Companies can sign up here at the Entrepreneur Corner, which is currently sponsored by Microsoft. (Of course, you’ll still find lots of startup news and innovation in our day-to-day coverage.) Today, we continue the series with Foodspotting, below.
Foodspotting, a young web-based food guide that takes reviews beyond restaurants to the actual dishes, gave such an impressive pitch at Women 2.0′s Startup Weekend last weekend, that it walked away with $5,000 in seed funding on the spot — pretty good for a company that’s nothing more than an idea, at least for now.
The premise is not all that different from restaurant review sites like Yelp or Chowhound, only instead of being oriented around how good certain restaurants are, users can search by type of dish or food. Like, for example, if you were dying for some fried chicken, you could fire up Foodspotting in web or iPhone application form to find out where and how good the nearest fried chicken is. Seems pretty intuitive, considering that most people crave meals, not the restaurants that serve them.
Also like the other sites, Foodspotting plans to rely on user-generated information and critiques, encouraging users not only to find foods via the service (a GPS-based map estimates distances), but to also report back on their favorite dishes at the restaurants they enjoy. So if you happen to run into some killer guacamole, you can easily snap a photo on your phone and send it in with the name of the dish, restaurant, and any other juicy details.
Of course, no recommendation engine would be complete without a system for rating its recommenders. Users have the ability to award others’ food reviews, and can earn badges and titles to build fun, helpful reputation scores. This gives you sort of an indirect way to say thank you for being guided to the best pizza, sandwiches, etc. that your city has to offer.
The one drawback: none of this exists yet. Devised and built rapidly, just in time for Startup Weekend, Foodspotting today is nothing more than a Twitter feed (@foodspotting), and a pretty web page. Not to belittle the accomplishment. In fact, the idea behind it has proved so compelling that some people are already using Twitter to foodspot right now. User @jamesguest tweeted about the haggis he just ate in Scotland, labeling it #foodspotting. It will be interesting to see if the practice takes off. If so, the fledgling startup could have a nice springboard for its forthcoming web and mobile apps. It plans to have the web app up by November, and the iPhone version available by January.
The most convincing part of Foodspotting’s pitch at Startup Weekend was by far the mockups of its product — featuring practically mouth-watering stills of its interface, sleek navigation and, of course, food. This is what seemingly convinced private investor Dan Martell to throw down $5,000 in seed funding at the event itself. It doesn’t sound like much, but that kind of money is a big vote of confidence for a developer working on her own time.
Foodspotting’s founder, Alexa Andrzejewski, works full time as a designer at Adaptive Path, a company specializing in stylish, intuitive interfaces for web sites, software and deices. So it makes sense that she’d have a sharp instinct for what techies-cum-foodies would look for in an app. Andrzejewski says the company has just retained the services of an iPhone development team.
VentureBeat will keep tabs on Foodspotting as it takes shape. In the meantime, it’s nice to see an energetic, well-designed startup filling in gaps that the big boys like Yelp and GrubHub seem to have overlooked. Hopefully it won’t be just a flash in the pan.
Below is a video from Startup Weekend featuring Andrzejewski:
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